By Eleni P. Austin

Somewhere between the MC5, Iggy & The Stooges, The Ramones and The Clash stand The Incurables. The Detroit four-piece, which includes Pat Kelly (vocals, guitar, piano) Dennis Pepperack (vocals, guitar) and the Lawson brothers, Darrin (vocals, drums, piano, percussion) and Ray (vocals, bass and xylophone) have been a going concern for more than 30 years. They’ve just released their sixth long-player, Inside Out & Backwards. If it were possible for The Beach Boys and The Ramones to have a musical baby, it might sound like the album’s opening cut, “When I Grow Up.” Strafing guitars connect with tensile bass lines and a bludgeoning beat. Slightly sneering vocals wrap around lyrics that imagine a rosy future quickly goes to shit: “When I grow up, I’m gonna be your man, we’ll have a thousand kids, that’s the plan, always makin’ love, when I grow up.” But reality immediately asserts itself: “When I grow up, I’m gonna get a job, a weaselly sleazy manager named Bob.” A cranky Greek chorus chimes in, repeating “never gonna happen, never gonna happen” like a mantra. A stinging, sidewinder guitar solo uncoils on the break.

For this new album, band adds an array of colors and textures to their sonic palette. Take the cerebral search-and-destroy of “Funhouse.” Anchored by a throbbing bass lines, marauding guitars and cantilevered beat, lyrics advocate a journey to the center of your mind, in a twisty time warp fashion: “Just turn to the left and you slide to the right, it’s time to take a trip inside your mind, where nothing is real, it’s just all make believe, you can try to run but you can’t hide.” A bendy, hallucinogenic guitar solo singes the break just before time signatures shift and the hurtles into interstellar overdrive.

Meanwhile, “Man Of Few Words” celebrates the strong silent type. Slithery guitar, agile lithe bass and a hi-hat kick are matched by stacked harmonies. Succinct lyrics attempt to (explain) aloof behavior is in reality, masks diffidence: “He may seem stuck up and far away, but he doesn’t mean to come off that way. Psychedelicized wah-wah guitars explode between verses and take flight on the break.


Finally, the melody of “Soda Pop” shares some musical DNA with Neal Hefti’s iconic theme from the 1966 TV series Batman, as well as The Clash’s “Brand New Cadillac.” Surfin’ and spyin’ guitars are wed to rumbling bass lines and a pogo-riffic beat. Staccato riff-age strafes across the arrangement all in service to deliberately dumbed-down lyrics that pay homage to a fizzy addiction: “It comes in a bottle, it comes in a can, it’s made for a woman, it’s made for a man, it’s always best when served cold, but don’t shake it up or it might explode.”

On a record stacked with superlative tracks, three stand out from the pack. “Someday” wraps scuzzy guitars, boinging bass and an aggro skip-to-my-loo beat around lyrics that split the difference between a tender declaration of love and a stalker’s manifesto: “Every step I take brings me closer to your love is all I need, to keep me safe from the darkness that continuously consumes my sanity.” The action slows on the break as Darrin unleashes a thundering drum salvo, Ray hangs back as brutish guitars twitch and squall. The final verse feels like just cause for a restraining order: “As I hold you tight, I’ll never let you go now that you’re a part of me, no matter what you say, there’s nothing you can do to deny our destiny, I will be with you someday.”

“When You” echoes the disrorto-desructo impulses that fueled the earliest Who singles. A descending, creepy-crawly bass line and slashing guitars are tethered to a galloping gait. Lyrics place an unattainable girl on a pedestal, “Whenever you’re alone you’re all I see, you are on every page of my memory,” only to kick the pedestal out from under her: “I don’t want to spend my life just to be with you, there are more important things that we can do.” A spiky guitar solo mirrors the lyrical equivocation. Tiny, tinny piano notes shiver as the song winds down.

“Back Into Eloise” is the record’s tour de force. An epic shapeshifter that starts out with a bit of Southern ‘70s Boogie as choogling guitars sync up in tight formation, latticing slinky bass lines and a snapback beat. Warbly vocals are matched by cryptic lyrics that sketch out a tentative rapprochement: “Who’s wrong and who’s right? We can’t be sure, but either way I felt complete, you held me tight, kept me secure, and now I’m living on the street.” By the break cyclonic guitars, bookended by a whipcrack beat, power down, making way for a courtly Spanish guitar solo that echoes ‘60s classics like The Monkees’ “Valleri” and Love’s “Alone Again Or.”

Other interesting tracks include the kaleidoscopic Garage Rock of “Go Away” and the jittery candy-coated crunch of “Far Away.” The album closes with the splintery panache of “I Told Myself (Absolutely Nothing),” which includes a knockabout drum solo and the set’s best non-sequitur: “Calling Doctor Bombay,” Perhaps Gladys Kravitz will pop up on the next one.

The Incurables offer the perfect Garage-y Power Pop panacea for whatever ails ya. One song at a time.